July 1, 2018
Out of the 10 commandments from God, I think the one that causes the most confusion and the one we understand the least is the 3rd commandment. “remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy.” All the other ones are pretty straight forward. “You shall not murder.” Got it. “You shall not commit adultery.” Understood. “Honor your father and mother.” Check. But remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy? What in the world does that mean? What are we being asked to do? What does Sabbath even mean?
So let’s begin today by looking at this commandment in its original context. In 1500 bc, a man named Moses was leading the nation of Israel through the wilderness between Egypt and present day middle east. At one point, God called Moses up on top of a mountain and gave him God’s law. Starting in Exodus 20 through Leviticus and parts of Numbers, God gives Moses a total of 613 rules for how the Israelites were to live. At the very beginning in Exodus 20, God gives Moses the big ten. The ones that we call the 10 commandments. The purpose of these commandments were actually given for the people to enjoy life. If everyone followed these commandments, guess what it’d be? Heaven. Perfection. Unfortunately, we and everyone else in the world break these commandments every second of every day.
But here is what the third commandment says. “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore, the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.”
When God created the world, he created everything in 6 days. He simply spoke and all things came into being. After 6 days, everything was created. And so, on the 7th day, God rested. He didn’t do any work at all. Adam and Eve, the first human beings were part of God’s creation. And since they were perfect, guess what they loved to do? Spend time with God. It was the highlight of their day every day. But soon, Adam and Eve did what God told them not to do. They broke God’s command and brought sin into the world. Now instead of loving to be in God’s presence, they feared him.
Thousands and thousands of years later, Moses and the Israelites, the Jews, were on the scene. They had an extremely great work ethic. Why? Because if they didn’t work, they didn’t eat. There were no banks. If they didn’t cultivate the fields, if they didn’t trade, if they didn’t work, they wouldn’t eat. So guess what they cut out of their lives? God. So God said to the people, remember the Sabbath day (Sabbath means rest day) by keeping it holy. And notice God says that six days you’ll work but the seventh day is a day to the Lord. Dedicated to him. A day when you don’t work, get away from the business of life, and you rest and spend time with God
God knows humans, he created them. And what will we as humans do? We will run get concerned with the things of this life, and we’ll get anxious, fearful, and be spiritually exhausted. We will get so caught up in our to-do lists, that sitting down and spending time with God gets cut out. God wants us to have a day when we rest physically, but also spiritually. Take time to spend with him and spiritually rest and renewal in him. So he says, “This day is for me.”
We do this too. Maybe your kids or your spouse say to you, “Hey, can you dedicate some of your time this week for me so we can do something together.” That’s what this commandment is all about. God says, “Dedicate a day for me so we can spend time together.” Why? Because time with Jesus is where true rest comes from. We are going to now turn our attention to an account in Luke where we see this exact thing play out between two sisters. Martha and Mary. Here’s what happened.
38 As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. 39 She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said.40 But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!”
41 “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, 42 but few things are needed—or indeed only one.Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”
Recognize that Jesus is the one thing needful for true rest.
Have you ever felt like Martha? I’m sure all of us have. My whole family is from the same small town. My cousins and I are the first generation to move out of our small Illinois town called Crete. Growing up, my parents hosted Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and Easter dinners. And because all of our family lived in the vicinity of this small town, they all showed up. Leading up to those dinners, mom ran around like crazy. All the preparation that had to be done. All the cleaning that needed to take place. All the cooking that had to happen. And nothing got my mom more upset then seeing the rest of us sit on the couch watching sports while she was the only one preparing. The anxiety, the worry, and the stress causes us to get upset just like Martha.
And so Martha comes in and asks Jesus to tell Mary to help her prepare. If Mary will just help her, they can get done sooner, and then they can both sit and rest. Martha wasn’t doing anything wrong. It’s not like what she was doing was a sin. Her problem though, was that she didn’t recognized what actually brings rest. It’s not getting her stuff done, it’s not eating on time, instead what brings true rest is sitting at the feet of Jesus and listening to him.
Are we more of a Martha or more of a Mary? Well, look at your life. What does your actions say? Are you like Martha; content to have Jesus in your life, in your house even, but you don’t take the time to sit and converse with him regularly? Only when you need something from him? We like him there in the background in case I get to overwhelmed, to upset, to worried about the things of this world, then I can go to him and ask him to tell these things to stop so that I can have rest. If so, we are Martha’s. And when we aren’t making time for Jesus and God’s Word, we break the third commandment. It is basically us saying, “God I like you around, but I don’t want to dedicate any time to hear what you say.”
You see, the thing we need the most, seems to be the most counterproductive thing we could do. Instead of running around trying to accomplish everything on our to-do lists, the one thing we need for true rest, is to sit down with Jesus. Its only through him that stress is relieved, anxieties and fears are calmed,
Recognize how Jesus brings true rest.
Maybe it’s worth asking, “Why does God make it a rule that we spend time with him?” Seems pretty desperate of God. Needy. And yet, that’s not the case at all. Instead, this command, like all his commands comes from love.
See, what does God know about us? He knows that sin has caused us to be very individualistic. Like a little kid who doesn’t want help tying his shoes, we don’t want help from him. We want to control things. We want to have a handle on things. And yet, what do we find out again and again? We can’t. So we get all upset, we get worried and filled with anxieties. We get fearful. And Jesus says, “Come to me all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest.” That’s what his Word, the Bible does. This is how God talks to us and brings us peace.
It’s through his Word that we hear he has everything under control. That he provides for the flowers of the field and the birds of the air. And if he takes care of these things how much more will he take care of us. God says, “You don’t have to be worried and upset about many things. I’ve got everything under control.” But guess how we get that rest? Only when we sit down and listen to his Word and have a relationship with Jesus.
He gives us rest from loneliness as he tell us, “I am with you always. Never will I leave you never will I forsake you.” He gives us worth that we could never give ourselves. He says, “God loves you so much he gave his one and only Son for you.” But how do you know that? Only when we sit down and listen to his Word
We get worried and upset wondering if we’ve done enough to earn God’s love. We get anxious inside as we try to keep the ten commandments as we try to appease God. But with each failure, we are convinced that God is going to punish us or take his love from us. We feel the guilt and the shame. But Jesus says that he fulfilled all Scriptures. He kept the law for us. He covers us with his perfection so that God considers us perfect in his sight. We don’t have to keep the 10 commandments. We get to. God loves me on my good days and bad because of Jesus. And guess how we get that rest? Only when we sit down and listen to his Word
We get worried and upset because we see the headlines in the news. We know we live in a dangerous world filled with tragedies. One day tragedy is going to strike us. One day our greatest fear will overtake us: death. Nobody can escape it. We get anxious. We get fearful. And rightly so! And yet, as a Christian you can have peace because of Jesus.
Mary and Martha are well known for one other account in the Bible. Do you remember what it was? Their brother Lazarus died, and was buried. He was in the tomb for four days when Jesus showed up. Both Mary and Martha said to him, “Lord, if you were here my brother would not have died.” They knew Jesus would have healed him. Jesus told them, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me will live even though they die. And whoever lives and believe in me will never die.” Why? Because Jesus is God. He controls death. And he demonstrated that on Easter morning. That Friday before, Jesus died on the cross after going through a brutal crucifixion. He was buried in a tomb. But on Sunday morning, he rose from the dead. He rose with his glorious heavenly body that can’t be harmed anymore. And he promises to you that he controls death’s power over you. That he will raise you to life again. That death isn’t your end because he is the resurrection and the life. How do we find this rest? Only when we sit down and listen to his Word.
This is the true rest that God wants you to have. This is what’s behind the third commandment. God wants you to set time aside to strengthen this relationship and so that he can build you up with the truth of his Word that he may give you true rest. Rest from all your anxieties and fears, the things that trouble your soul, the guilt and the shame. All of it, he gives you rest from.
Learn to have a relationship with Jesus for true rest.
The question: how do we do it? The Bible is a big book. Where do we start? First, look at your day and plan a time to set aside to spend with Jesus and read his Word. Second, pick a book of the Bible to read. If you’re just starting, I suggest Luke. Read a section or a chapter a day and then reflect on what Jesus is trying to teach you. Write down your questions, and send them to me. Maybe your devotional time is reading the daily devotion I send out. Maybe it’s another devotional book you have. Make sure it’s from the Bible. You can also download the bible app and set it up so it sends you a daily bible verse. When you get it, read it and reflect on it.
This is what the third commandment is all about. It’s about spending time with your God so that he can give you rest both now and forever.
- What from the sermon piqued your interest or touched your heart?
- Read Colossians 2:16-17 – How is Jesus the fulfillment of the commandment to keep the Sabbath?
- Why did Martin Luther say this was what it meant to keep the Sabbath day command: “We should fear and love God, that we may not despise preaching and God’s word, but hold it sacred and gladly hear and learn it?”
- Tell each other two or three passages that regularly give your rest from the things that agitate your heart. (What are your “go to” passages to get rest in God?)
- How does a proper understanding of why God gave us the Sabbath idea invite us to keep a regular personal and group Sabbath for the benefit of our souls?
- Tell about the last time you had a retreat in the word and how it changed your life.